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A SOCIETY WITHOUT A DOGMA - H. P. Blavatsky
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|H. P. Blavatsky |
A SOCIETY WITHOUT A DOGMA
TIMES have greatly changed since the winter of 1875-6, when the establishment of the Theosophical
Society caused the grand army of American Spiritualists to wave banners, clang steel, and set up a great
shouting. How well we all remember the putting forth of "Danger Signals," the oracular warnings and
denunciations of numberless mediums! How fresh in memory the threats of "angel-friends" to Dr.
Gardiner, of Boston, that they would kill Colonel Olcott if he dared call them "Elementaries" in the
lectures he was about delivering! The worst of the storm has passed. The hail of imprecations no longer
batters around our devoted heads; it is raining now, and we can almost see the rainbow of promised
peace spanning the sky.
Beyond doubt, much of this subsidence of the disturbed elements is due to our armed neutrality. But still
I judge that the gradual spread of a desire to learn something more as to the cause of the phenomena
must be taken into account. And yet the time has not quite come when the lion (Spiritualism) and the
lamb (Theosophy) are ready to lie down together--unless the lamb is willing to lie inside the lion. While
we held our tongues we were asked to speak, and when we spoke--or rather our President spoke--the
hue and cry was raised once more. Though the pop-gun fusillade and the dropping shots of musketry
have mostly ceased, the defiles of your spiritual Balkans are defended by your heaviest Krupp guns. If
the fire were directed only against Colonel Olcott there would be no occasion for me to bring up the
reserves. But fragments from both of the bombs which your able gunner and our mutual friend, "M. A.
Oxon," has exploded, in his two letters of January 4th and 11th, have given me contusions. Under the
velvet paw of his rhetoric I have felt the scratch of challenge.
At the very beginning of what must be a long struggle, it is imperatively demanded that the Theosophical
position shall be unequivocally defined. In the last of the above two communications, it is stated that
Colonel Olcott transmits "the teaching of the learned author of Isis Unveiled"--the "master key to all
Who has ever claimed that the book was that, or anything like it? Not the author, certainly. The title? A
misnomer for which the publisher is unpremeditatedly responsible, and, if I am not mistaken, "M. A.
Oxon" knows it. My title was The Veil of Isis, and that headline runs through the entire first volume.
Not until that volume was stereotyped did anyone recollect that a book of the same name was before
the public. Then, as a derniere ressource, the publisher selected the present title.
"If he [Olcott] be not the rose, at any rate he has lived near it," says your learned correspondent. Had I
seen this sentence apart from the context, I would never have imagined that the unattractive old party,
superficially known as H. P. Blavatsky, was designated under this poetical Persian simile. If he had
compared me to a bramble-bush, I might have complimented him upon his artistic realism. He says:
Colonel Olcott of himself would command attention; he commands it still more on
account of the store of knowledge to which he has had access.
True, he has had such access, but by no means is it confined to my humble self. Though I may have
taught him a few of the things that I had learned in other countries (and corroborated the theory in every
case by practical illustration), yet a far abler teacher than I could not in three brief years have given him
more than the alphabet of what there is to learn, before a man can become wise in spiritual and psycho-
physiological things. The very limitations of modern languages prevent any rapid communication of ideas
about Eastern Philosophy. I defy the great Max Muller himself to translate Kapila`s Sutras so as to give
their real meaning. We have seen what the best European authorities can do with the Hindu
metaphysics; and what a mess they have made of it, to be sure! The Colonel corresponds directly with
Hindu scholars, and has from them a good deal more than he can get from so clumsy a preceptor as
Our friend, "M. A. Oxon," says that Colonel Olcott "comes forward to enlighten us"--than which scarce
anything could be more inaccurate. He neither comes forward, nor pretends to enlighten anyone. The
public wanted to know the views of the Theosophists, and our President attempted to give, as succinctly
as possible in the limits of a single article, some little glimpse of so much of the truth as he had learned.
That the result would not be wholly satisfactory was inevitable. Volumes would not suffice to answer all
the questions naturally presenting themselves to an enquiring mind; a library of quartos would barely
obliterate the prejudices of those who ride at the anchor of centuries of metaphysical and theological
misconceptions--perhaps even errors. But, though our President is not guilty of the conceit of
"pretending to enlighten" Spiritualists, I think he has certainly thrown out some hints worthy of the
thoughtful consideration of the unprejudiced.
I am sorry that "M. A. Oxon" is not content with mere suggestions. Nothing but the whole naked truth
will satisfy him. We must "square" our theories with his facts, we must lay our theory down "on exact
lines of demonstration." We are asked:
Where are the seers? What are their records? And, far more important, how do they
verify them to us?
I answer: Seers are where "Schools of the Prophets" are still extant, and they have their records with
them. Though Spiritualists are not able to go in search of them, yet the Philosophy they teach commends
itself to logic, and its principles are mathematically demonstrable. If this be not so, let it be shown.
But, in their turn, Theosophists may ask, and do ask: Where are the proofs that the medial phenomena
are exclusively attributable to the agency of departed "Spirits"? Who are the "Seers" among mediums
blessed with an infallible lucidity? What "tests" are given that admit of no alternative explanation? Though
Swedenborg was one of the greatest of Seers, and churches are erected in his name, yet except to his
adherents what proof is there that the "Spirits" objective to his vision--including Paul--promenading in
hats, were anything but the creatures of his imagination? Are the spiritual potentialities of the living man
so well comprehended that mediums can tell when their own agency ceases, and that of outside
influence begins? No; but for all answer to our suggestions that the subject is open to debate, "M. A.
Oxon" shudderingly charges us with attempting to upset what he designates as "a cardinal dogma of our
faith," i.e., the faith of the Spiritualists.
Dogma? Faith? These are the right and left pillars of every soul-crushing Theology. Theosophists have
no dogmas, exact no blind faith. Theosophists are ever ready to abandon every idea that is proved
erroneous upon strictly logical deductions; let Spiritualists do the same. Dogmas are the toys that amuse,
and can satisfy, but unreasoning children. They are the offspring of human speculation and prejudiced
fancy. In the eye of true Philosophy it seems an insult to common sense, that we should break loose
from the idols and dogmas of either Christian or heathen exoteric faith to catch up those of a church of
Spiritualism. Spiritualism must either be a true Philosophy, amenable to the test of the recognized
criterion of logic, or be set up in its niche beside the broken idols of hundreds of antecedent Christian
Realizing, as they do, the boundlessness of the absolute truth, Theosophists repudiate all claim to
infallibility. The most cherished preconceptions, the most "pious hope," the strongest "master passion,"
they sweep aside like dust from their path, when their error is pointed out. Their highest hope is to
approximate to the truth. That they have succeeded in going a few steps beyond the Spiritualists, they
think proved in their conviction that they know nothing in comparison with what is to be learned; in their
sacrifice of every pet theory and prompting of emotionalism at the shrine of fact; and in their absolute
and unqualified repudiation of everything that smacks of "dogma."
With great rhetorical elaboration "M. A. Oxon" paints the result of the supersedure of spiritualistic by
Theosophic ideas. In brief, he shows Spiritualism a lifeless corpse:
A body from which the soul has been wrenched, and for which most men will care
We submit that the reverse is true. Spiritualists wrench the soul from true Spiritualism by their
degradation of Spirit. Of the infinite they make the finite; of the divine subjective they make the human
and limited objective. Are Theosophists Materialists? Do not their hearts warm with the same "pure and
holy love" for their "loved ones" as those of Spiritualists? Have not many of us sought long years
"through the gate of mediumship to have access to the world of Spirit"--and vainly sought? The comfort
and assurance modern Spiritualism could not give us we found in Theosophy. As a result we believe far
more firmly than many Spiritualists--for our belief is based on knowledge--in the communion of our
beloved ones with us; but not as materialized Spirits with beating hearts and sweating brows.
Holding such views as we do as to logic and fact, you perceive that when a Spiritualist pronounces to us
the words dogma and fact, debate is impossible, for there is no common ground upon which we can
meet. We decline to break our heads against shadows. If fact and logic were given the consideration
they should have, there would be no more temples in this world for exoteric worship, whether Christian
or heathen, and the method of the Theosophists would be welcomed as the only one insuring action and
progress --a progress that cannot be arrested, since each advance shows yet greater advances to be
As to our producing our "Seers" and "their records"--one word. In The Spiritualist of Jan. 11th, I find
Dr. Peebles saying that in due time he--
will publish such facts about the Dravida Brahmans as I am [he is] permitted. I say
permitted, because some of these occurred under the promise and seal of secrecy.
If even the casual wayfarer is put under an obligation of secrecy before he is shown some of the less
important psycho-physiological phenomena, is it not barely possible that the Brotherhood to which
some Theosophists belong has also doctrines, records, and phenomena, that cannot be revealed to the
profane and the indifferent, without any imputation lying against their reality and authoritativeness? This,
at least, I believe, "M. A. Oxon" knows. As we do not offensively obtrude ourselves upon an unwilling
public, but only answer under compulsion, we can hardly be denounced as contumacious if we produce
to a promiscuous public neither our "Seers" nor "their records." When Mohammed is ready to go to the
mountain, it will be found standing in its place.
And that no one who makes this search may suppose that we Theosophists send him to a place where
there are no pitfalls for the unwary, I quote from the famous commentary on the Bhagavad-Gita of our
brother Hurrychund Chintamon, the unqualified admission that,
In Hindustan, as in England, there are doctrines for the learned, and dogmas for the
unlearned; strong meat for men and milk for babes; facts for the few, and fictions for the
many, realities for the wise, and romances for the simple; esoteric truth for the
philosopher, and exoteric fable for the fool.
Like the Philosophy taught by this author in the work in question, the object of the Theosophical Society
"is the cleansing of spiritual truth."
--H. P. BLAVATSKY
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